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Upcoming A&S Grad Creating a Better Future for Her Children

This single mother was motivated by her children to become the first person from her family to attend college and will graduate with a double major in biological sciences and psychology.

Date: 5/31/2012
By: Tom Robinette
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Christina Holtkamp
There were a lot of questions that could have kept Danielle Smith from being the first member of her family to attend college. How would she afford to pay tuition and her mortgage at the same time? How would she accommodate a two-hour round-trip commute from Mount Orab, a roughly 3,000-person village in Brown County? How would she – a single mother of two children and day care teacher – find her place in a college coed’s world?

There was only one answer: She would do whatever was necessary to show her children that anything is possible and a better life is theirs if they work for it.

Knowing the journey she would take might lead to a brighter future for her children purged her doubts, charged her spirit and fueled her resolve. This spring, she’ll reap the benefits of her hard work when she earns degrees in biological sciences and psychology. By doing so, she’ll teach Tyler, 9, and Shyla, 6, an incredible lesson in devotion.
Danielle Smith will graduate with degrees in biological sciences and psychology.

“I want my kids to know that they can do anything that they want to do in life,” Smith says. “I hope I’m setting that example for them.”

Smith began taking classes at UC Clermont in fall quarter 2008 and transferred to the Uptown Campus in summer 2010. She had been interested in early childhood behavior since high school and considered a career in pediatrics, which influenced her choice of study in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences.  She’s gone on to learn and do things she never imagined she’d be able to, including conducting microbiological research on vegetable fermentation as an intern in assistant professor Michael Preston’s lab at UC Clermont. She even picked up a second job as an administrative assistant at the Clermont campus.

Smith, with guidance from Director of Student Retention Initiatives Carol Tonge Mack, also got involved with the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program. The initiative is designed to increase the number of students who major and graduate in the STEMM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, math and medicine. It provides an innovative learning environment with emphasis on academic excellence, support, guidance and professional development.

“Carol was always really supportive, and almost like a mom to me,” Smith says. “She would tell me, ‘You need to do this.’”

Like any good mother would be, Tonge Mack is proud of what Smith has achieved and credited her ability to persevere when others might have faltered under similar circumstances. Tonge Mack says she’ll be in the audience at commencement, waving Smith on as she crosses the stage to accept her diplomas.

“What is special about Danielle is that she never said, ‘I can’t do this,’ or questioned completing the degrees,” Tonge Mack says. “She always had a plan for ‘after graduation.’”

That plan still involves pediatrics, and Smith is considering graduate school. For now she hopes other women in situations like hers will be able to look to her as an example of what’s possible with support from the faculty and staff at UC. The opportunities Smith has had in A&S have put her on a path toward her dream career, and she wants others to follow in her footsteps.

“I do have friends that I have encouraged to go back to school,” Smith says. “It’s hard work, but it will make a better life for your kids.”

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